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[neyv] /neɪv/
an unprincipled, untrustworthy, or dishonest person.
Cards. jack1 (def 2).
  1. a male servant.
  2. a man of humble position.
Origin of knave
before 1000; Middle English; Old English cnafa; cognate with German Knabe boy; akin to Old Norse knapi page, boy
Can be confused
knave, naval, nave (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. blackguard, villain, scamp, scapegrace. Knave, rascal, rogue, scoundrel are disparaging terms applied to persons considered base, dishonest, or worthless. Knave, which formerly meant merely a boy or servant, in modern use emphasizes baseness of nature and intention: a dishonest and swindling knave. Rascal suggests shrewdness and trickery in dishonesty: a plausible rascal. A rogue is a worthless fellow who sometimes preys extensively upon the community by fraud: photographs of criminals in a rogues' gallery. A scoundrel is a blackguard and rogue of the worst sort: a thorough scoundrel. Rascal and rogue are often used affectionately or humorously (an entertaining rascal; a saucy rogue ), but knave and scoundrel are not.
hero. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for knave
Historical Examples
  • But the knave can seldom be brought to believe in the existence of an honest man.

    The Golden Censer John McGovern
  • But still this world (so fitted for the knave) Contents us not.

    Essay on Man Alexander Pope
  • From the next row to that whence you took the knave, take the seven; from the next row take the five; from the next the queen.

  • I die in charity with fool and knave, Secure of peace at least beyond the grave.

    Essay on Man Alexander Pope
  • To show mercy towards such a knave is an outrage to society!

    Wood Rangers Mayne Reid
  • He who pretends to know is either a fool or a knave, my friend.

  • The knave of the suit represents the most intimate person of their family.

  • I hope you may be, you knave, and I shall be rid of one villain!

    Capitola's Peril Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth
  • The fox made a hearty breakfast on it, saying, "The fool's ear was made for the knave's tongue."

  • You'll go to the camp-meeting with us again, won't you, you knave?

    Capitola's Peril Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth
British Dictionary definitions for knave


(archaic) a dishonest man; rogue
another word for jack1 (sense 6)
(obsolete) a male servant
Derived Forms
knavish, adjective
knavishly, adverb
knavishness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cnafa; related to Old High German knabo boy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for knave

Old English cnafa "boy, male servant," common Germanic (cf. Old High German knabo "boy, youth, servant," German knabe "boy, lad," also probably related to Old English cnapa "boy, youth, servant," Old Norse knapi "servant boy," Dutch knaap "a youth, servant," Middle High German knappe "a young squire," German Knappe "squire, shield-bearer"). The original meaning might have been "stick, piece of wood" [Klein]. Sense of "rogue, rascal" first recorded c.1200. In playing cards, "the jack," 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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